fat free opinions on a food centric life

Braised Lamb Shanks with Couscous & Ricotta Salata

Braised Lamb Shanks with Couscous & Ricotta Salata

To many, Spring represents a promise of warmth to come, a freshness in the air and longer days that allow for relaxation.  To us, it marks the beginning of the end of the busy season at my husband’s office.  No spring break here.  So what do the two things call for in our house?  Slow Food.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about the Slow Food movement lately, considering that who I am as a cook is what it advocates:

Living the slow life with food as the focus is as rewarding as it is
easy, and it can be done daily by each one of us. Ultimately, it is
about pleasure and taste, knowledge and choice. Once we begin to take
an interest in the enjoyment of food, and in finding out where our food
comes from, we can begin to see the effects of these choices.

I completely agree.

So when I saw the lamb shanks in the case a week ago at the grocery store, I didn’t hesitate to put them in my basket knowing I’d find something wonderful to cook them with.  Something slow and relaxed. Delicious. Comforting.  Something to help soothe my husband’s tummy as he presses on for another month.

And coincidentally, Ben at What’s Cooking? is hosting his second Food for Plastic Challenge with a focus on Springtime faire.  As usual, I’m trying to squeeze in under the wire which is today, but that isn’t because I waited until today to actually cook my dish. It’s been in the works for a few days to celebrate the art of patience, knowing that if I followed the recipe’s suggestion for “make ahead” allowing the lamb shanks to luxuriate in their braising liquid in the fridge for a couple of days, it would send our taste buds singing into foodie heaven.

That’s exactly what happened.

The recipe for “Braised Lamb Shanks with Trahana Pasta and Ricotta Salata” by executive chef Pano Karatassos was originally published in Food & Wine in 2005 and billed as something “expat chefs eat when they’re homesick.”  How could I ignore that recommendation?  Besides, it’s packed with  lovely herbs like thyme, dill, parsley, and chives.  And there is that garlic…

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I followed the recipe linked above with the following changes:

1)  I used 4 shanks and cut the rest of the ingredients in half to feed 4.
2)  Brown the shanks in the pan you expect to braise them in, removing them from that pan while sauteeing  onion, garlic, and thyme in the butter.
3)  Add the shanks back to the pan with the onion mixture before adding stock.
4)  After the cooking time, cool briefly, then place in fridge well-covered for 2 days.
5)  Turn shanks over in the braising liquid before reheating at 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes.
6)  I used a can of Italian style crushed tomatoes instead of pureed tomatoes.
7)  I used the recommended couscous because I had no idea where to get trahana pasta.

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Recipe Notes

  • This was an exceptional dish.  The couscous was very flavorful with the great combination of tomato and lemon juice really standing out.  The cinnamon flavor added a nice touch without being pronounced, although my son noticed and couldn’t quite identify the spice.
  • The lamb is exceptionally tender and comes off the bone easily —  moist and rich in flavor.  Very satisfying.
  • This is the third lamb recipe I’ve made in less than a year, and for someone who grew up not ever having had lamb, I can say that it just keeps getting better and better.

Simply fabulous!